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Maryam Shadman-Pajouh, Teeside University, Mervyn Martin, Teeside University,

We live in an ever-globalising world. It is vital therefore for the international trading system to provide a platform that sufficiently supports the ability of all players to benefit from globalisation.   This platform is referred to as the multilateral trading system (MTS) which, through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) provides a series of agreements that regulate international trading activity. The current agreements were negotiated over a period spanning more than a decade, and therefore has to be appreciated within the context of which compromise and agreement were arrived upon. This is especially true as the previous platform, the GATT 1947 became obsolete, failing to respond to the developments within the international trading system.

Recent times have seen the emergence of challenges that were not fully appreciated previously. The slash and burn approach to land clearing in Indonesia has spread haze with increasing severity to its neighbours. The same activity has also brought to light the plight of wildlife losing their natural habitat, causing some countries like the EU to sanction Indonesian oil palm and Indonesia retaliating by targeting the European pharmaceuticals. The recent COVID-19 pandemic further emphasises that environmental, and public health concerns have been neglected in favour of trade liberalisation and profit.

The conveners of this theme welcome proposals addressing the need for greater or lesser concern of social issues to be taken on board by the WTO when considering international trade regulation and policy.

We hope to stimulate discussion and further collaboration on these and other questions among participants of the theme.

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